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charging the priests and rulers with the most impious murder in putting him to death. When they forbade him to speak any more in Christ's name, and added threatenings to the prohibition, he boldly answered, “ Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you, more than unto God, judge ye; for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” · In Peter we see the genuine operation and solid fruit of true repentance. It was in him, as it is in all, followed with a general resolution against sin, and a particular care to avoid those sins, which have most frequently and easily prevailed. Peter probably was more bold in the cause of Christ, than he ever would have been, if he had never denied him. His fall taught him his weakness; and he watched most carefully where his danger was greatest. He no more trusted in himself, but placed his reliance on that grace, which alone was sufficient to keep him. As he had done great dishonor to Christ, by denying him, so he felt his obligation to labor more abundantly in the cause of Christ, that he might repair the past injury and strengthen his brethren by his example of fortitude and zeal. As he had seen the wonderful grace of Christ in pardoning his past offence, he felt himself under new obligations to him. Much had been forgiven him, and he loved much. Paul felt the force of the same motive. “By the grace of God I am what I am. His grace was exceeding abundant. And it was not in vain for I labored more abundantly.”
Peter's tears were a hopeful indication of godly sorrow. But his future conduct was a more decisive evidence of it. In that he sorrowed after a godly sort; what carefulness, what zeal, what diligence it wrought in him.
We may here profitably remark the distinguished forwardness of Peter to be with Christ, when he perceived that he was on the shore. As soon as John said, “It is the Lord," Peter cast himself into the sea, and waded to land, leaving his brethren to come on slowly with the loaded boat.
There is a great difference in men's natural tempers; and this difference often manifests itself in their religious conduct. The bias of nature is sometimes mistaken for religious affection. To udge rightly of our moral character it is necessary that we should
know our constitutional disposition. Otherwise there will be danger, that we ascribe to grace that which properly belongs to nature.
Peter was naturally a man of a fervent and impetuous mind. Hence he often spake and acted suddenly in cases, in which men of more coolness would have taken time for deliberation. When Christ said to his disciples, “ Ye all will be offended because of me this night,” Peter answered without hesitation, " Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” When Christ added, “ Before the cock crow this night, thou shalt deny me thrice;" he, without standing to examine himself, replied, “ Though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee.” When the soldiers came to apprehend Jesus, it was asked, “ Lord shall we smite with the sword ?” Peter, without waiting for permission, drew his sword, smote one of the officers and cut off his ear. When intelligence was received, that the Lord was risen, Peter and John started together and ran toward the sepulchre. John outran Peter and came first to the sepulchre. He stooped down and took a view of it, but went not into it. Peter soon arrived. He ran directly into the sepulchre to see and feel whether the body were there. Thus on the occasion mentioned in the text; when he was told, that Jesus stood on the shore of the lake, he tarried not for the boat to come to land, but plunged immediately into the water. So eager was he to be with his Lord, that he would not wait a moment for the boat.
This action was no evidence that Peter had more love to Christ than his brethren had. It was merely the effect of natural eagerness. The other disciples were as much in the way of their duty, while they were drawing their fishes to land, as Peter was while he was wading to the shore. By the goodness of Christ a bountiful supply had been given them. This might be of great use to them, not only for present consumption, but also for sale in the market. This draught of fishes was probably the means of their support for a considerable time. Had they all left the boat and lost what they had taken, they would have been guilty of great waste. Nor could they have justified the waste by pleading the ardor of their love to Christ. For certainly love to his person and gratitude for his goodness would induce them to save what he had so miracu
lously put into their power. Peter and his brethren all loved their Lord and rejoiced to meet with him. If Peter showed the ardor of his affection in leaving the vessel, that he might be with Christ the sooner, they shewed the coolness of their prudence in waiting to bring the boat and the fishes along with them.
Let us never mistake the emotions of nature for the operations of grace. You feel perhaps a flow of affection in devotion, and an engagedness of mind in some other religious duties, and you think these to be indications of habitual piety. But enquire whether this fervor spreads through all your religion. If it does, sit is, indeed, an amiable quality. But if it operates in particular cases only and leaves you indifferent in other matters equally important, it is not godly zeal, but natural temper occasionally excited into action. You feel an indignation against certain sins, which you see practised in the world, and you call this a zeal for God. But whose sins, are they? If they are only the sins of your enemies—the sins of other sects—the sins of opposite partizans; and you are, at the same time, indifferent to the sins of your friends and adherents, your zeal is only spleen and ill nature. If you are zealous of good works in others, you will be zealous to repent of evil works in yourselves.
You have a great delight in the devotional duties of religion, and you are very constant in your attendance on them. Your piety is much to be commended. But see that your piety be uniform, and that it be an aid, not a hindrance to other duties, to the duties of industry, sobriety, justice and charity. You see some more attentive to their worldly interest, than you think they ought to be, or need to be. But perhaps they are the best judges. Do you know the exigencies of their families? Do you know how much they contribute to the relief of the poor? Do you know how much they give for the maintenance of religion? Do you know how much time they spend in the private exercises of piety? If they neglect the institutions of God and the worship of the sanctuary and the family for worldly ends, they, indeed, give too strong proof that the love of Christ dwells not in them. But if they observe all the duties of piety, in proper season, as well as you, and are only more frugal and industrious, you have no more cause to censure them as strangers to the power of godliness, than Peter had to condemn his brethren as destitute of love to Christ, because they tarried with their boat to take care of their fishes and bring them to land, while he rushed through the water to the shore, leaving all behind.
The duties of religion are all consistent; and they ought to be so conducted, that they may be subservient to one another. Piety may assist us in our worldly labors; and these may assist us in our piety.
When the disciples saw what a number of fishes they had taken in the morning, after an unsuccessful night, their thoughts turned on Jesus, whose miraculous power and goodness they had often seen. When we see the success of our labors in our fields, and the bountiful supplies afforded to our wants, ought not our thoughts to rise in admiring gratitude to him, from whom comes every good and perfect gift? We are as much indebted to God for the common bounties of the field, as the disciples were for the spėcial bounty of the sea. Unmindfulness of the Benefactor is as criminal in our case, as it would have been in their's.
If it becomes us thankfully to regard the bounties of Providence, much rather ought we to admire the blessings of grace. God has sent his Son into the world to procure salvation for sinners by his death on the cross. This salvation has been purchased; the price has been paid; the offer is made, and made freely; the terms are stated and stated plainly. The offer let us accept with gratitude and joy.
Had the disciples contemptuously cast away the fishes, which had been miraculously brought to their net, their guilt, though great in itself, would have been small in comparison with their's, who despise the salvation purchased by the Saviour's blood. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? We are not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, who verily was ordained before the foundation of the world, but has been manifested in these last times for us, that by him we might believe in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, and who will bring all humble believers to glory with him, that where he is, there may they be also.
REFLECTIONS ON THE CHARACTER OF JUDAS.
MATTHEW XXVII. 3, 4, 5.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was con
silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood. And they said, what is that to us ? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and went and hanged himself.
less repentance and dismal end. The story is attended with many affecting circumstances, and contains many useful instructions and warnings. It is affecting to see the vile ingratitude of a disciple, who, after he had been admitted to particular friendship with his Lord, deliberately betrayed him into the hands of his enemies for a trifling consideration. It is affecting to see how the poor creature, when he had perpetrated the villainy, was tormented by his guilty conscience. But it is most affecting of all to see the despairing wretch precipitating himself into the eternal world, for relief from the horrors which he felt in this.
My design is to open to you the story, with its several circumstances, and point out the instructions suggested in it.